There are sure to be plenty of women who would raise their hand if asked whether their doctor has ever dismissed their health concerns. For too long, a large majority of us have put off booking an appointment for period pain or anxiety through fear of being laughed out of the door.
Now, women are taking back the control through the power of social media.
In a recent tweet, writer Suzannah Weiss asked female Twitter users how long it took them to be diagnosed with a chronic illness. She then went on to list her own personal experience with 17 different doctors over an 11-month period to “show what we go through just to begin to heal”.
Women with chronic illnesses: how long & how many doctors did it take you to get diagnosed? I counted 11 months & 17 doctors & wrote down what each did to show what we go through just to begin to heal. pic.twitter.com/2TJ7FOyH3B
— Suzannah Weiss (@suzannahweiss) October 16, 2018
Weiss then went on to highlight how women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQ community in particular are often criticised for self-diagnosis.
“We get called hypochondriacs when what we really are is empowered and determined to love and care for ourselves,” she tweeted. “This is a feminist issue. We are sick, suffering and even dying because people still can’t trust our knowledge of our own bodies.”
[Thread] Women, PoC, NB folks, & LGBTQ people w/ chronic illnesses are criticized for self-diagnosing, but the reason we self-diagnose is that those charged with diagnosing us are biased against us & don’t understand issues that disproportionately affect us.
— Suzannah Weiss (@suzannahweiss) October 18, 2018
Weiss then encouraged fellow women to speak up and use the hashtag #MyDoctorSaid in order to share their own experiences with GPs.
Unsurprisingly, hundreds of social media users took to Twitter to speak candidly about their past ordeals and some are admittedly hard to read.
One wrote, “Me: I’m worried I have ovarian cancer, I always have pain near my ovary. Doc: How long has this been going on? Me: On and off for seven years. Doc: (laughing) If it was cancer, you’d be dead by now. It took 5 more years to be diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis. #MyDoctorSaid”
Me: I’m worried I have ovarian cancer, I always have pain near my ovary.
Doc: How long has this been going on?
Me: On and off for seven years.
Doc: (laughing) If it was cancer, you’d be dead by now.
It took 5 more years to be diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis.#MyDoctorSaid
— Confluence Nutrition (@malachesky) October 26, 2018
Another tweeted: “Don’t you want to be pretty?” – an allergist on my 10lb weight gain due to medication #MyDoctorSaid”
“Don’t you want to be pretty?” – an allergist on my 10lb weight gain due to medication #mydoctorsaid
— armydillo (@armydillo) October 25, 2018
But they’re not alone, as women across the world took to Twitter to share their personal stories – a sure-fire sign that change needs to happen:
#MyDoctorSaid I was promiscuous because I’d had sex with more than one person. He then wrote STD RISK in giant letters on my folder. #MyDoctorSaid I didn’t really have bronchitis, and I just wanted attention.
— Jennifer Leavey (@everydayangle) October 26, 2018
After years of depression and two suicide attempts, I finally plucked up the courage to seek help from my doctor, only to be told “I think you’re over-reacting don’t you?!” #MyDoctorSaid
— Claire Martin (@phoebs47) October 29, 2018
“You can never be too rich or too skinny” my therapist said after I lost weight due to gastro problems. #MyDoctorSaid
— Maggie Levantovskaya (@ProfLbyday) October 25, 2018
A 2015 study revealed that there was a longer lag time from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis in female patients in six out of 11 types of cancer. But this isn’t down to women delaying booking an appointment with their GP, as a large majority of doctors re guilty of not taking women’s symptoms seriously.
While a 2013 study discovered that more than twice as many women as men had to make more than three visits to a doctor in the UK before getting referred to a specialist for suspected bladder cancer.
Though the stories may prove hard to read, the powerful hashtag will hopefully help to boost conversation around the growing issue and will eventually enable us all to feel welcome at our local doctor’s surgery.
If you wish to share your story, use the hashtag #MyDoctorSaid.
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